Updated: Nov 18, 2022
Twenty-eighth Sunday 2Kings 5:14-17; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19
Saint John Baptist de la Salle/Saint Stephen October 9, 2022
As most everyone knows I'm from New England, Massachusetts to be exact. I was born there, and I lived there almost half of my life. I never ventured out of New England until I was in my late twenties. I drove from Massachusetts to North Carolina, to visit my mother's sister Barbara, and her husband Carl, who lived in the town of Clyde, in the western part of the State. Carl's brother George grew tobacco on his farm, and I was fascinated by its appearance. I put a large box in my car, filled it with dirt and tobacco plants, drove them back to Massachusetts and planted them in my garden. I was rather amazed that the orange-red clay like dirt I brought back from North Carolina did not look like Massachusetts dirt. My father stepped in to explain that, well, dirt is different from state to state. State boundaries are not drawn in dirt, but there is a difference from state to state. I still marvel at the signs that greets a driver as they cross from one state to the next. Welcome to Pennsylvania, Home of Brotherly Love. Virginia is for lovers.
There seems to be little difference from one state to the next and it makes you wonder at the audacity of human made boundaries. Nonetheless, we draw them; we even kill for them. And they do matter. The limpest lie that can be told, is that lines are never necessary. Life is quite different in territory claimed, if not controlled, by the likes of Vladimir Putin. There are also people who kid themselves into thinking that, once a line has been drawn moral reasoning can simply rest. Either way, it's not too hard to see some sense in what Naaman is saying in today's reading, that if it was the God of Israel who had healed him, he would carry home some of the lands dirt so that he could properly worship in the future. The Gospel gently laughs at all this, the lines we draw. Then only a Samaritan returns to give thanks to the God of Israel, Jesus asks, "Ten we cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner return give thanks to God?" Then he said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith saved you."
Dividing lines do matter. We cannot help but draw them, but the Gospel wants us to know that they are our lines, not God's- They are a consequence of sin's entrance into our world: "Our resources are here. Yours are there." "Life is better on this side of the border." "The grass is greener in my yard." "Good walls make good neighbors." But lines drawn on a map do not limit our lives like those we draw in our hearts. This is what you should have done. This is what you didn't do. If you behaved differently you could live with me, but you don't. Timothy reminded us that "the word of God is not chained," but we prefer to say, "If your opinions were the same as ours, we not have pushed you away. The nature of all aggression, personal and political, passive, and direct, is this: To achieve some good, we are willing to perpetrate evil. It is not a question of declaring wrong to be right. We must acknowledge and struggle against real injustice, but we must not seal our hearts from others. Closing ourselves to others is a sickness, a sin. The God revealed on the cross of Christ has his arms wide open. That is who God is, "the repairer of the breach," the healer of bodies and souls. Naaman wants to carry home dirt. And we are all too willing to divide it. But on the cross of Christ a different truth, a different line is drawn upon the earth. He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed.